BBC experiments with 360 degree Strictly Come Dancing video

First news, then dancing for the Beeb's immersive video trials
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Ballroom dancing. It's not the most high tech of pursuits, is it? Is it? Strictly Come Dancing just joined companies like Oculus and Jaunt in creating immersive, 360 degree video. So, maybe it can be futuristic after all.

The BBC's experiments in video for both exploring with smartphones and tablets and viewing in VR headsets has moved from news to entertainment and quickly. The 360 degree Strictly video (below), which features pro dancers taking part in a highly choreographed, acrobatic performance to Rihanna's Only Girl in the World, has already been viewed over 16,000 times since it was posted to YouTube on 4 October.

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The bespoke rig of micro cameras gives Strictly fans a bands' eye view of the episode's opening number as dancers parade around the live set in front of judges and a studio audience. It was created with digital production company, Rewind, and involved the input of the programme's director of choreography Jason Gilkison from the pre-production stage.

Christopher Nundy, the BBC's innovation manager for comedy, entertainment and events answered the question "Why Strictly?" in a blog post. "Other than wanting to aim high and work with an award winning programme," he wrote, "the content lends itself readily to a 360 piece; amazing visuals made up of high energy movement and numerous points of interest throughout."

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Choosing this kind of show certainly opens up 360 degree video to new audiences who might not have tried it before which is precisely what BBC R&D's Zillah Watson says the experiments are designed to do. The Beeb doesn't want to spend money on expensive shoots if no-one is going to watch it. Nundy refers to this as a "special, one-off experience" which was specifically tailored to the format.

"Jason Gilkison saw the potential of the format and in sharing our enthusiasm; he has put together a stunning routine for the professional dancers, giving points of interest in all areas of the dancefloor. The routine plays to the strengths of 360 whilst always keeping the viewers in the studio and at home as the main focus. A rig was positioned in such a way to not cause too much of an obstruction to the audience or impede on the dancers performance."

VR has been dubbed a boys club but judging by the comments underneath the YouTube video, female Strictly fans love the experiment.

"I started dancing along and then realised that when you move the angle you are watching at moves," said TotallyTamsin. "This gave me the opportunity to look at aljaz for the whole time!!!" said Sophie Penikett. And YouTube user Cellar Door commented: "So nice to see the perspective where the camera is NOT moving around like a drunken sailor and feel the actual movements of the dancers!"


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Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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